Guest post by Mark Sedgley, President & CEO
I have always marveled at the sheer amount of free software available in the universe. As the president of a software company that charges for my product, it’s obviously an intriguing and potentially threatening subject for me. Just for the sake of formality, the above statement was intended to be my version of full disclosure.
So back to the subject at hand, free software. In today’s world, free software takes on many forms. Unless you have a solid understanding of its different forms, you can really make some poor decisions for your organization as you embark upon solving everyday business needs and requirements.
So I want to make sure we discuss the most important dynamics of engaging free software. Everything from the different types and forms of free software, all they way down to the true ROI for your organization. My goal in this analysis is not to dissuade you from searching for and harnessing the power of free software (well maybe a little bit). Quite the opposite really. What I want to do is to equip you to make a good decision for you and your organization.
So how do you effectively decide if free software is right for your organization? You need a solid understanding of the risks and rewards of using it.
Ask yourself these questions:
What are the differences between types of free software?
Can free software meet my organization’s needs?
What are the hidden costs in time and effort?
With those answers in hand, you’ll be well equipped to move forward with the solution that best meets your needs.
There’s a lot to those questions. What processes are you looking to improve or remove? Who will it impact in your organization? Who’s responsible for implementing, supporting and maintaining the software? Why is it free? Does it really meet your needs? How often is the software updated? The list of questions goes on…
As you can see, there’s much to consider when evaluating any software tool and even more so when it comes to free software. These questions should also be asked of traditional licensed software, but in that environment there are typically already several mechanisms in place to handle those concerns about upgrades, support, maintenance, training, and implementation. Many of these risk factors/potential money pits are simply part of the package.
Which is not to say that free software isn’t a viable and valuable alternative to paid software in some cases. Just remember to ask the right questions!